Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana
In early September, the media went abuzz with news of Amazon becoming the second US company to surpass the $1 trillion market cap. However, the news of Amazon’s success has eclipsed certain interesting facts:
- 2017 was the worst year ever for traditional retail stores thanks to e-commerce businesses like Amazon.
- More than 662 traditional retail businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2017 — a 30 per cent increase from 2016.
- Traditional retailers were the second biggest job loser in 2017 — contributing to a loss of over 36,000 jobs.
- Abercrombie & Fitch, American Apparel, Bebe, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Sears, and RadioShack are just a few of the high profile traditional retailers that had to shut down stores due to internet companies like Amazon cutting into their revenue.
Now, there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Experts believe that 2018 will end up being as difficult as 2017 was for traditional brick-and-mortar stores. All indications point to the fact that traditional brick and mortar stores will continue to go into obscurity for as long as the internet continues to thrive.
What is most noteworthy, however, isn’t the fact that many of these businesses are going under but the fact that they ignored the internet, which eventually was responsible for their going under, for so long until it was too late. Eventually, smaller, underfunded, and bootstrapped startups like Amazon came over and ate their lunch.
While not much can be done to help the traditional brick and mortar stores that are going under, there is another technological revolution — similar to the kind that forced many of these businesses to go under — on the horizon, and it is in artificial intelligence.
I believe artificial intelligence will be as disruptive as the internet was, and, just as was the case with the internet, many big players are, and will continue, ignoring artificial intelligence. In fact, as reported here on TNW just recently, a recent research paper shows that China is on track to outspend the US on AI research by the end of 2018.
There are sparks in AI but we need fire
As was chronicled here on TNW just a few months ago, sparks are already being created in the private sector when it comes to artificial intelligence:
Among big companies, automaker Volkswagen (VWAGY) is already accelerating research and work on AI in an attempt to make self-driving cars a reality. In banking, a good portion of JPMorgan Chase’s (JPM) $10 billion tech budget for 2018 was assigned to AI, and their hiring decisions show that they are taking AI serious. They have already rolled out AI-powered services to help their clients better invest. In healthcare, Philips (PHG) has an AI strategy in focused on releasing AI-powered solutions to assist medical professionals in better assisting patients.
Among startups, BioSig Technologies (BSGM) is using signal processing to develop a system that acquires and manages electrocardiographic and intracardiac signals in patients undergoing electrophysiology (EP) procedures. Phrasee is using artificial intelligence to analyze successful campaigns and create copy for organizations such as The Times and Domino’s. Vivacity Labs is using AI camera technology to gather data on transport systems and provide data for smart cities.
While the above are all examples of good use of artificial intelligence, both among successful mega corporations and startups, we have just barely scratched the surface.
Research from Adobe shows that only a measly 15 percent of enterprises are using artificial intelligence, and data from MIT Sloan Management Review shows that, while large companies with over 100,000 employees are the most likely to have an AI strategy, only half of them have one.
In essence, it doesn’t seem the government is going to take a lead when it comes to artificial intelligence, and while the private sector is indeed making moves, adoption is still very slow. One thing is clear, however: we can’t afford to ignore artificial intelligence.
Here are some of the reasons why we can’t ignore AI:
1. Information can be processed, analyzed, and used faster: Due to AI’s adaptiveness, it is easy to process, analyze, and make available timely information at a much faster pace.
For example, in fields such as healthcare where lives of users could be at stake, health information can be quickly analyzed to provide more timely solutions and in a way that reduces mix-ups, misdiagnoses, and other medical errors.
2. AI can help fight crime better: When we look at how much resource is being wasted on fighting crime, a strong case is made for investing more into research on AI applications for fighting crime.
For example, it was only recently that it was in the news that a Chinese fugitive was singled out and arrested from a crowd of 60,000 people attending a pop concert. Guess how he was arrested? He was detected by an AI-powered facial recognition system.
There are several advantages to using AI to fight crime: just a few include the fact that it minimizes resources used, works faster and with better precision, and can be automated.
3. AI can help make transportation more efficient: Self-driving cars, smart traffic systems, and self-managed fleets are just some of the ways artificial intelligence can help ensure a more efficient transportation system.
4. Financial systems can benefit from AI: Banks and financial institutions can use AI to improve compliance, operational efficiency, develop effective investment strategies, and automate user activities.
I could go on and on, but the potential applications of artificial intelligence are limitless. While our government isn’t doing as much as they can when it comes to AI, the private sector has a lot at stake — we will have a bigger price to pay if we sit and do nothing.